TORONTO — In the run-up to the election, Justin Trudeau said the federal government would give the provinces $1 billion to help shoulder the costs of provincial vaccine passports.
Days later, and still on the campaign trail, Trudeau suggested that for any provinces that were interested, and had rolled out provincial vaccine passports, the federal government could add certification for international travel.
While Canada’s official system of proof of vaccination for international travel was first promised for fall 2021, on Sept. 3 Trudeau said, “We will be bringing in that more formalized version in the coming months, or a year perhaps.”
Piggybacking federal certification for international travel for fully vaccinated Canadians onto provincial vaccine passports, Trudeau seemed to be suggesting, could be an interim measure until the national system is ready. “The priority is giving people a solid document that will allow them to do both things, both engage provincially in local businesses, knowing that they’re safe from the people at the next table, and travel internationally with something robust enough and approved by the government of Canada, that will be accepted at airports around the world,” he said.
The list of provinces with vaccine passports – which could add in the federal government’s certification for international travel, if Trudeau keeps his election promise – is growing. Vaccine passports / proof of vaccination requirements for non-essential activities are now up and running in Ontario (Sept. 22), New Brunswick (Sept. 22), Alberta (Sept. 20), B.C. (Sept. 13), Quebec (Sept. 1) and Manitoba (Sept. 3). Other provinces coming onboard include Newfoundland and Labrador (early October), Saskatchewan (Oct. 1) and Nova Scotia (Oct. 4).
For now Canadian travellers are using ArriveCAN to upload their proof of vaccination.
We wanted to know, is ArriveCAN a good enough system for the short-term, since the piggybacking plan with the provincial vaccine passports is still so far just an election pledge, and since the official Canadian vaccine passport could be as much as a year away?
We asked three travel industry experts what they’re hearing and seeing now, here’s what they said…
“Most travellers including international travellers are comfortable with the ArriveCAN app and able to upload their proof of vaccination. This is similar to entry requirements for several other countries. Unfortunately there is still much confusion amongst Canadians and Americans as to which negative COVID test you require when travelling to / from Canada and some even think you need it to travel between provinces… the federal and provincial governments have really botched their messaging and continue to state now is not the time to travel!”
— Brian Robertson, President (Canada West), Direct Travel
“This flip-flopping about has folks back and forth on things as you can imagine. Now with the proof of vaccination, more people are raring to go. I’m heading out on Oct. 16 myself and can’t wait! Generally one streamlined piece would be the best and it’s just too bad that the process is getting stalled by jurisdiction issues ie. health being provincial and transport being federal. We’ll keep hoping for quick but conscientious methods that won’t be rolled-out so quickly they will need to be redone.”
— Heidi Hurst, Heidiway Travel, Calgary
“I don’t expect we’ll see anything [in terms of the national vaccine passport for international travel] in the very near future. I’ve been talking to friends, colleagues and agents to find out peoples’ experiences travelling overseas …. right now ArriveCAN seems to be sufficient (along with negative tests) and quite a few are also using Verifly.
“The vast majority of people I’ve heard from have said the process takes longer than usual but it’s expected and there haven’t been any issues if you have the ArriveCAN app and negative test within 72hrs.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is the inconsistency around whether documents are checked, how closely, etc. Some have had rigid checks — so long lines — whereas others have zipped through (could have something to do with how full the flight is, etc.).
“I think as traveller numbers go up we’ll see an increase in issues without an international passport, given the lack of consistency with requirements and regulations.”
— Allison Wallace, VP, Corporate Communication & CSR, The Americas, Flight Centre Travel Group